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What happens when someone dies from lung cancer?

(13 Posts)
NeopreneMermaid Sun 04-Oct-15 10:45:07

My beloved grandad has received a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. We have no idea how long he has or if he'll see Christmas, although he's on pretty good form at the moment, considering.

I've got lots of support on the emotional side but can't find anything on what really happens when someone dies from lung cancer. I'm scared he will essentially be suffocating to death and gasping for breath in his final moments. I want to know whether this is likely and, if so, what we can do for him to reduce the trauma (for him and us).

I think what I'm really looking for is people's experiences of being with someone who died from lung cancer as I'd rather know what could happen and be braced for it rather than be told it will be OK and peaceful and not to worry, only for it to be horrible. Kind of in the same way that my mum prepared me well for birth by telling me that yes, it would hurt (she had been told it wouldn't and then was terrified something was going very wrong when it did).

I know every death is an individual experience and my post could be deeply upsetting for some so I'm sorry if this is the case. I just need to feel a little more prepared on the practical side. Thank you.

chelsbells Sun 04-Oct-15 10:59:13

So sorry to hear this, it is a horrible time for all involved and it doesn't get easier.

My MIL died of lung cancer, she had 9 months from diagnosis. After 8 months she went into a hospice to receive the best care possible, once there after two weeks she was put on a morphine driver which basically put her into a deep sleep but she was still breathing for herself but didn't wake for the toilet, or to eat or anything like that so we didn't get to hear her speak again.

Right at the end she went peacefully, there was no attack or pain, she just slipped away while on the driver. When it came to it, it was the nicest way she could have gone, no-one wants them to be in pain.

No two experiences will be the same, share lots of time together now and don't hide your emotions away, it's important to take as much care of yourself as you do your grandfather


thornrose Sun 04-Oct-15 11:10:46

My dad died of lung cancer. He was diagnosed after being ill for some time. Because of this he was given a very short time frame.

He went down hill very fast, he died about 8 weeks after diagnosis.

He was quite confused after a couple of weeks and in and out of consciousness. He was heavily sedated and on Morphine.

His breathing was slow and laboured with long gaps between breaths. He did just slip away at the end, he didn't appear to be in pain and never looked as though he was suffocating.

It's very hard but to be honest my dad wasn't really my dad anymore at the end. I just wanted him to pass away peacefully if that makes sense?

NeopreneMermaid Sun 04-Oct-15 18:05:47

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm reassured to know that morphine is available at the end so there won't be a panicked fight in full consciousness at the end because, like you, I do want him to just pass peacefully.

starfish12 Tue 06-Oct-15 13:08:16

So sorry about your grandads diagnosis.
My dad died in Feb - he had stage 4 lung cancer. Was almost 2 yrs from diagnosis - initially given 6 months but he had a particular type of cancer that was treatable by a new drug.
In the end he got pneumonia and was sent from hospice to hospital - he did get a bit panicky and breathless but nothing too bad and they gave him drugs to relax him which worked wonders. His body then started to shut down and he lost consciousness - we were all with him when he took his last breath. It was very peaceful. Hope your grandad gets the best possible care and flowers for you and your family x

Anastasie Tue 06-Oct-15 13:14:03

I think normally with cancer it becomes so that the metabolism is affected by the tumour load, meaning a person's blood becomes overwhelmed with different hormones and so on being released and once you are out of kilter like that, you will tend to sleep more and more, and eat less and less, and be less aware of what is happening...later towards the end you will perhaps start to talk nonsense, and want to be moved around the room and so on, from one place to another, with no rational reason - this stage is something called active dying, and if you google it you will get some descriptions.

Many people as has been said will be either sleeping deeply or have gone into a sort of coma, or they will be heavily medicated so that they are not in pain.

I hope your Grandad has some good times to come, and that when the end comes for him it is merciful.

Twolefttoes Tue 06-Oct-15 13:30:14

The hospital/hospice can usually tell if a person's life is coming to an end and will increase morphine etc. to ensure there is no distress or pain at the end.

Unfortunately I have been there at the end for two people who had lung cancer and both went in a very similar way. They were mostly unconscious for approx. 24 hours before they died, breaths were taken further and further apart with a bit of a chesty sound, until they just stopped. They slipped away very peacefully.

Best wishes flowers

lazysummer Tue 06-Oct-15 19:56:08

My mum also died of lung cancer, and my experience was as others have said. She was on morphine, but the body is a wonderful thing, and seems to shut itself down. The doctor explained that you go through various levels of consciousness; it was peaceful at the end.
Good luck OP, and enjoy the time you have with your lovely grandad.

NeopreneMermaid Thu 08-Oct-15 21:23:49

Thank you all so much for your kind words and for sharing your experiences. You've been hugely reassuring on the practicalities and it's also very comforting to know I'm not alone. Thank you.

Shakshuka Thu 08-Oct-15 21:41:26

My darling Dad died last week from lung cancer.

It was stage 4 when it was diagnosed but that's because it was in the pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) rather than because it was in distant organs.

He had a talc procedure and started chemo. This was over 3 years ago (july 2012). For most of this time, he had a pretty good quality of life. He travelled A LOT, we had some lovely holidays together. He had chemo every 3 weeks and seemed to do very well.

The last 6 months the chemo stopped working and he went downhil as the cancer spreadl. There was a time where his pain was't well controlled and that was hard and he was suffering. But that was also because he had a thing about not taking opiates and being addicted. Once he started taking appropriate pain medication things got much better in terms of quality of life.

To be honest, he just seemed to fade away. He found it harder and harder to eat and got weaker and weaker. He died peacefully at home, in his bed, with no uncontrolled pain and only on oxygen at the very end. Obviously, I wish he hadn't gone but there is comfort that he didn't suffer.

msunnymol Mon 12-Oct-15 11:32:02

My mum died of lung cancer 6 weeks from her initial GP appointment. It was horrible and I really feel for you. My mum lost her voice and became very unbalanced, falling over a lot and getting confused. We think it spread to her brain. Eventually, within the space of a few weeks, she just became bed bound and slept a lot. She became unconscious and died peacefully, her breathing just slowed down and down until she breathed no more.

Sorry to hear about your grandad. x

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 12-Oct-15 11:55:18

Am very sorry to read of your granddad.

My granddad died of lung cancer and spent his final days in a hospital ward. He died peacefully and in his sleep and died some months after the initial diagnosis. Treatment was chemo and palliative based in the later stages.

It was not all that surprising really that he received such a diagnosis; he started smoking in his teens and remained a heavy smoker as well till a couple of years prior to diagnosis.

I was in my late teens at the time and my mother barred my sibling and me from seeing him in the latter stages because she thought we would be upset at his appearance.

Be kind to yourself and remember too that grief is a marathon, not a sprint.


tilliebob Sun 18-Oct-15 18:47:10

My dad died 2 months tomorrow from COPD which was also due to him having seriously diseased lungs. The end came suddenly - he was in hospital for the first time in 2 years but went from lucid and chatting at visiting time to unconscious and on oxygen in HDU within a couple of hours.

They gave him morphine to calm him and stop any pain. Although we sat with him all night, we knew he was beyond us and as soon as they took the oxygen mask off he'd slip away. We were all there as his shallow breaths just tapered off.

Can't quite believe it all happened to be honest. Hugs to all on this thread X

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